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Video: Classic Performances by Solomon Burke

Burke performs classic songs on stage and television

Otis Redding was a Burke fanatic, recording “Down in the Valley” for 1965’s Otis Blue. Burke returned the favor in 1993, performing a mini-medley of Redding hits on the second floor of Naples, Italy’s Kronenberg Brewery. He eases from a restless “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” into an upbeat “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)” as the crowd goes nuts — Animal House‘s “Shout” scene come to life. The camerawork is shaky, but Burke’s performance is rousing.

Burke’s 1962 gospel hit “Down in the Valley” was an update on a traditional folk song recorded by both Pete Seeger and Tex Ritter. The King of Rock and Soul performed the track in manic preacher-style on German television in 1987, inviting the audience onstage for a dance party.

In their early days, the Rolling Stones warmed up crowds by opening with Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (included in the RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time). The band resurrected their old staple in 2002, inviting Burke onstage at a rarities-filled theater show in Los Angeles. Mid-song, Burke draped a purple cloak across Mick Jagger, who immediately took it off. “It was a fantastic gesture, but I didn’t understand it at the time,” Jagger said later. “I wasn’t ready for it and didn’t respond in a very gentlemanly way.” Keith Richards added, “He wasn’t expecting it — and Mick doesn’t wear a cloak that well.”

Fast forward to the three-minute mark to see the performance.

Some of Burke’s biggest fans were his peers. Here’s Wilson Pickett performing a raucous Sixties version of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.”

Burke may have been the first R&B singer to delve deep into country music. He even scored one of his first hits with 1960’s “Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms).” He was having a late-career comeback by the time he returned to country for 2006’s Nashville, produced by Buddy Miller. He performed a one-off show country show at Nashville’s Belcourt Theater on September 25, 2006, performing a stunning “Valley of Tears” with Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch.

“Cry To Me” reached mass popularity after a shirtless Patrick Swayze swayed to the ballad with Jennifer Grey in 1987’s Dirty Dancing. In a recent performance, on the BBC set of Later With Jools Holland, Burke tore through the 1962 classic surrounded by Christmas decorations.


King Solomon’s Sweet Thunder: Read one of the last in-depth interviews with Burke by Charles M. Young

Fifteen Great, Career-Spanning Solomon Burke Songs

Solomon Burke’s Life in Photos

Soul Legend Solomon Burke Dead at 70


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